Joseph Kony, leader of Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army, has been indicted by the International Criminal Court.
The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), formed in 1987, is a rebel paramilitary group operating mainly in northern Uganda. The group is engaged in an armed rebellion against the Ugandan government in what is now one of Africa’s longest-running conflicts.
It is led by Joseph Kony, who proclaims himself a spirit medium and apparently wishes to establish a state based on his unique interpretation of Biblical millenarianism.
It is estimated that around 20,000 children have been kidnapped by the group since 1987 for use as soldiers and sex slaves. The group performs abductions primarily from the Acholi people, who have borne the brunt of the 18-year LRA campaign. The insurgency has been mainly contained to the region known as Acholiland, consisting of the districts of Kitgum, Gulu, and Pader, though since 2002 violence has overflowed into other districts. The LRA has also operated across the porous border region with Southern Sudan, subjecting Sudanese civilians to its horrific tactics.
Up to 12,000 people have been killed in the violence, with many more dying from disease and malnutrition as a direct result of the conflict. Nearly two million civilians have been forced to flee their homes, living in internally displaced person (IDP) camps and within the safety of larger settlements, sleeping on street corners and in other public spaces. The plight of these people has received little media coverage in affluent countries.
These are the first indictments by the International Criminal Court.
I have mixed feelings about this. It is good to see the ICC up and running, despite the opposition of the United States. It is good to see bad men like Kony on the wrong end of international legal proceedings.
But it is hard to see how there can be a peaceful settlement to what is effectively Africa’s longest running war now that Kony faces trial in the International Criminal Court. The international community owes it to the people of Uganda to provide resources, logistics and military support to bring the war to an end and to bring the leaders of the LRA to justice.
But perhaps our commitment to a war on terrorism does not run that deep?